Victims Family at the Arlene Francis Center

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The last time I saw Victims Family was in 1993 at the Phoenix Theater. I’m pretty sure that I called in sick to my job at Bradley Video to go to the show, although my memory of the actual specifics grows fuzzier with each passing year. My best friend and I went to the show together. She did a zine called “I Heart Victims Family.

" We lived outside of Forestville, in a trailer attached to an old fire house. We had moved up from Los Angeles a few months before, and wasted no time becoming obsessed with Bay Area music—Green Day, Blatz, Mr. T Experience, Nuisance, Spitboy, and Victims Family. By this time, VF had put out a few albums. They played a hybrid of punk, funk, and metal that we loved—remember, the Red Hot Chili Peppers were good back then too.Victims Family played at the Arlene Francis Center this past weekend—their first show in Santa Rosa in nearly 20 years. I made to the Sunday matinee show, but supposedly the Saturday night show turned into an epic, drunken, humid, mosh-fest. Sunday’s show was decidedly more mellow, but still had the contingent of old drunk Natty Light-drinking skater dudes in the front row. Sometimes these reunion shows are the closest thing we will experience to a high school reunion.All members of the band were in fine form. Ralph Spight can still yelp, and growl, and wail on the guitar with as much intensity as ever. Larry Boothroyd still dominates on the bass—playing it with the smoothness and confidence of someone who has been digging into the strings for thirty years. Tim Solyan still plays like a fantastical drum beast. In an April 2010 interview with the Bohemian, Spight said, "It's always been a kind of challenge to stay in touch with how passionate we feel about the music that we play and all the things that you get into a band for. It's nice to get back to a point of remembering why we got into it and what we love about it." And this attitude was reflected in the energy and power of the show. It was also rad just to see the crowd reaction—the pure delight of long-time fans seeing the band back in action.Of course, I had to engage in a bit of navel-gazing, and about halfway through their long set I started thinking about whether I really still truly loved the music of Victims Family, or whether my enjoyment was purely nostalgic. And in the end, I had to admit that I probably wouldn’t even listen to Victims Family now, if I came across them without all the historical baggage. This is just one of the realities of aging—music doesn’t retain the same potency for everyone. I think my love of Victims Family was tied up with discovering punk rock, and learning how to play guitar, and being high on politics, and moving to a new place.

I mean, I still feel high on life most times—but I have a different soundtrack. Which is fine. And seeing Victims Family, grey-hairs and all, still ruled.

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